Silent Crisis: The Social Injustice of Overmedicalisation in Young People’s Mental Health

Silent Crisis: The Social Injustice of Overmedicalisation in Young People’s Mental Health

The recent report by the Resolution Foundation paints a concerning picture – a trajectory heading in the wrong direction when it comes to mental health. Beyond a health concern, this issue emerges as a pressing social justice concern, threatening the future of our young people.

Picture a not-so-distant land where the lives of young individuals are entangled in the echoes of a silent crisis. The backdrop is set by the disconcerting reality revealed in the Resolution Foundation report – over one-third of young people aged 18-24 grappling with symptoms of common mental health disorders (CMD) like depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder.

In this tale of adversity, more than half a million 18-24-year-olds find themselves prescribed antidepressants in 2021-22, signaling a dire need for a transformative solution. The plot takes an unexpected turn as young people with mental health problems face higher rates of unemployment between 2018 and 2022, leaving one-in-five 18-24-year-olds experiencing mental health issues workless, compared to their healthier peers at 13 per cent.

Once revered as institutions of learning, universities become hotbeds for mental health problems. The prevalence of CMDs among full-time students rises at an alarming rate – 37 per cent, surpassing the increase seen in working or out-of-work young people. Non-graduates with mental health problems find themselves particularly disadvantaged in the labour market. Shockingly, one in three young non-graduates with a CMD are workless, compared to 19 per cent of non-graduates without mental health problems and 17 per cent of graduates with a CMD.

The plot thickens as a staggering four-in-five 18-24-year-olds, workless due to ill health, possess qualifications at GCSE-level or below, in stark contrast to their healthier counterparts. Mental health issues cast a dark shadow over education, with one-in-eight 11-16-year-olds experiencing poor mental health missing more than 15 days of school in the autumn term of 2023.

Social prescribing emerges as an antidote to traverse this silent crisis. Let us, as a society, champion the cause of the demedicalisation of mental health through social prescribing holistic approaches. By doing so, we can rewrite the ending of this story, transforming it into a narrative of resilience, recovery, and hope for generations to come. The time for change is now, and social prescribing stands as a beacon of hope in the journey towards unleashing good health and prosperity. Learn more at #LinkWorkerDay24 Annual Conference.

Christiana Melam MBE is the Chief Executive of the National Association of Link Workers.

See also

Viewpoint: Social prescribers have key role in tackling over-medicalisation of poor mental health | GPonline

Social prescribing link workers can improve mental health outcomes and waiting lists | NHS Confederation

The transformative effect of social prescribing (

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